The mystery of the squashed Summits.

Summiteer Cyril

by John Fraser

Any of us who expects the biscuits to fill the cardboard carton will know the sadness, the grief, of realising you are getting less than you had expected.

The same goes for SA Summits.

Take the BRICS Summit….a three-day event that was crushed to just two days, with a poorly-attended investment conference on the first day.

One hears of the actual Summit that the Indians nearly didn’t come; Putin was late, but surely the fault lay with the hard-working but inept organisers, who are thankfully banned from any event involving breweries and piss-ups.

Then came the Job Summit – did you blink? You might have missed it.

An afternoon of pretty tedious speeches from very tedious people. Even Cyril was less animated than normal. A list of things was agreed to, but not posted online until the following day. Shows how serious they all were about jobs.

And then there is the Investment Summit (rebranded Investment Conference, which cannot be a positive move.)

Today, Thursday, is Day 1 and not a lot is happening. Cyril has gone awol to open a train factory in the West Rand, which may be able to turn trains out almost as fast as our beloved countrymen torch them

A gala dinner in the evening? Media not invited. A great opportunity to get coverage is being squandered by organisers, who appear deeply dysfunctional and unable to issue timely information. There is a website for the Conference, which must have cost a fortune. Looks pretty. Hard to navigate, and lacking in fine detail. Symbolic, really, of the whole thing.

The Friday may have some meat, with announcements due on some new investment. How much of this is really new, how much of it will actually happen….? It may be difficult to pick it apart. As they no doubt intended.

And then there are break-away sessions, with a choice of three different themes, running all at the same time.

They could have stretched this into another day, to give more people a chance to listen to more stuff. But no. Conference or con?

And then on Saturday, soon after dawn, the President will be leading a stroll through Soweto. One suspects it is more about the images than about anything of substance.

Bilaterals are then promised, which may lead to some real wheeling and dealing, substance, investment.

But it may be difficult to judge this squashed Summit, and there are fears it may miss as many opportunities as the BRICS one and the Jobs get-together.

Maybe it is time that when we organise high-level events, with valued guests, we should get the professionals to put it together.

Or maybe it remains the case that when you are trying to get the right people into the right place at the right time, over a few days, you are biting off a lot more than you can chew.

Except at the gala dinner, where I won’t be allowed to bite off anything.

Welcoming the media, it seems, is an investment too far.

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